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Aunty Monkey - The Balloon Podcast

What or who is Aunty Monkey?

So… what or who is Aunty Monkey? That is a good question. It is a question that has been asked for decades. Probably the best way to explain it is to talk about the history of Aunty Monkey.

In the mid-1990s, a group of young, second-generation Australian balloonists banded together to start a ballooning movement. At the time, there was a lot of politics in the sport of ballooning. There were plenty of old feuds, people suing each other and a big divide between the private and commercial ballooning communities. These young balloonists were sick of watching the politics ripping the sport apart and decided to do something to bring the fun back to ballooning. As a result, Aunty Monkey – The Balloon Fanzine was born.

Aunty Monkey – The Balloon Fanzine

The first incarnation of Aunty Monkey (circa 1996) was in the form of a print “fanzine”. The word “fanzine” is in quotes deliberately, because initially it was a photocopied, 4 page black and white newsletter full of spelling mistakes. The first issue was sent out to about 20 people, however over the following years it expanded to a 24-page magazine (still photocopied) and was being distributed to 200+ people around the world.

The magazine was full of light hearted articles, reviews, jokes, recipes and generally anything remotely balloon related. However, it always stuck to the underlying value of keeping ballooning fun.

The magazine was eventually wrapped up due to life commitments getting in the way of the editors (Claire and Andrew Robertson), however the values of Aunty Monkey lived on within many balloonists.

Download the issues of the fanzine below:

Aunty Monkey – The Balloon Network

Fast forward a few years to the mid-2000s and Aunty Monkey was resurrected. This time it was launched as an online social network. Aunty Monkey became known as the “Facebook of Ballooning” before Facebook had really hit the mainstream. Over a few years, the Aunty Monkey site became the home for ballooning online interactions. There was over 2,500 members who posted a huge amount of content, including over 40,000 photos and 3,000 videos. It was an amazing way for balloonists around the world to meet each other and communicate. We still hear stories from people about the impact the site had on them and there are a lot of friendships out there that were formed through Aunty Monkey.

However, trends change and in the late 2000s Facebook became the preferred method for balloonists to communicate with each other. Usage of the site dropped and soon there was more activity from spammers than balloonists. So, it was decided that it was time to close the website. This was a sad day, but we always knew Aunty Monkey would come back in some form or another. And it has!

Aunty Monkey – The Balloon Podcast

So here we are, with the 3rd incarnation of Aunty Monkey… the Balloon Podcast. This is idea that has been floating around for a while and we have finally acted. Ballooning is full of interesting people and balloonists love talking, so what better way to combine these two things than through a podcast. As with every version of Aunty Monkey, we are launching it as experiment. If people like it and get on-board, we will continue. If it fizzles away, that is also fine as we are sure we will inevitably resurrect Aunty Monkey in the future as something else.

The “Aunty Monkey” name

Since the 1990s, people have been asking “where did the name come from?”. Only a select few know the origins and they have been sworn to secrecy. We will never tell!

Behind the mic...

Andrew Robertson

Andrew was one of the original founders of Aunty Monkey.

He started ballooning in 1978, at the age of 4, when his father started ballooning in South Australia. His first balloon flight was in the Adelaide Hills with Australian ballooning legend Phil Hanson.

In 1994, Andrew got his private license. A couple of years later he also gained his Instructors and Commercial licences.

Andrew is a very keen competition pilot. He has competed at all Australian National Championships in the last 20 years (normally comes 4th) and competed at the World Championships in 2006, 2012 and 2018.

Andrew Robertson

Adam Barrow

Adam is one of the founding contributors of Aunty Monkey.

Adam’s home town of Canowindra is the birthplace of modern ballooning in Australia, and he had his first flight there on his 8th Birthday in 1979. He obtained his pilots licence in 1993 and spent the next 10 years borrowing other people’s kit to fly.

Adam is a keen but very average competition pilot. He has organised National championships and has been Deputy Director and Jury President at National championships, and has sat on the jury for international events as well.

Adam has been active in driving the resurgence of experimental balloon building in Australia and has mentored many builders in Australia and internationally. He has built four balloons himself and has assisted in building of another 12 since 2003. He is in planning for another two balloons if he can convince his wife of their merits.

Adam has also served as President of the Australian Ballooning Federation over the course of his ballooning life and been active at committee level as well.

Ballooning is not so much about the flying as it is about the people for Adam and he has spent his life talking about ballooning to anyone who would listen.

Adam Barrow